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National

March 21, 2017

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PPP, MQM made futile attempts to halt census

PPP, MQM made futile attempts to halt census

ISLAMABAD: Two key political parties have made a senseless bid to impede an otherwise excellent, direly needed national exercise – population and housing census – which is proceeding apace in the initial stages of its first phase in sixty-three districts of the four provinces.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have filed separate petitions in superior courts, expressing reservations about the process, which is already nine years behind schedule in violation of the Constitution. The present sixth census was due in 2008 after mandatory ten years.

Neither the PPP government had picked up the courage to hold the exercise nor had the MQM ever raised the point of conducting the census when it was all-powerful during the regime of Pervez Musharraf, who had to leave presidency in 2008.

The Nawaz Sharif government showed guts to conduct the census when it decided more than a year back to carry it out, but now efforts are being made by these two parties to hamper it, which, if it was halted or slowed down as a result, will deprive Pakistan of the accurate population and housing data at an early date.

The PPP has challenged the procedures put in place for the current census in the Sindh High Court and sought disclosure of all data collected during the process. It also alleged irregularities.

“Access to information is our basic right. However, several important categories of information have been labeled as confidential in the census," PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar claimed. "The data collected in the census should be posted on a website immediately so as the people can know how many houses have been marked,” he asserted and feared that people would remain unaware of the data about them and all information would be sent to Islamabad. All citizens should be provided a copy of their information so that they can tally the data at a later stage.

The petition submitted to the Supreme Court by MQM Pakistan has alleged rigging in the census procedure. “There are severe anomalies in the pre-census process of blocks count. As part of pre-census rigging, the blocks of urban populace have been decreased. These blocks were counted as 47.65pc during the last census but for the present exercise, they have been reduced to 45pc. Sindh's urban population must have increased during the past 18 years due to urbanization, but the government has reduced the number of blocks so as to manipulate the census.”

The primary objective of involvement of the army troops in the process was to ensure its total transparency and credibility because political parties have adopted a time-tested habit of complaining about every official initiative regardless of its usefulness and value. They have always demanded that the military should be brought in for supervision.

The army’s participation has no doubt been making it sure that no complaints emerge. Successive elections have also been overseen by the military, which has been serving as a bulwark against serious reservations and complaints in the highly polarized environment in which no party is ready to trust the other. However, even after accepting the results, some of them have been disputing the electoral exercise.

The PPP and MQM have also been in the forefront in demanding the involvement of the army in different national processes. They had also urged the government to bring in the military to supervise the population and housing census. Now when the exercise is going on as per schedule, these very parties have embarked upon a path to obstruct it.

When the present government had decided to hold the census, it had taken all the stakeholders on board. The decision had been made in a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CII), which had been attended by all the provincial chief ministers.

That was the forum where all details were needed to be sorted out to avoid the present grumbling. Even this supreme process in the absence of which proper policy planning is impossible is being made an issue unnecessarily.

Historically, there have been little or no disputes among political parties over consecutive censuses in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), but political rows often crop up in Sindh due to a scramble between some political players enjoying popularities in its urban and rural parts.

The MQM apprehends that the urban population may be shown reduced to hurt it while the PPP is obsessed with the conduct of the process according to its will in the rural region that it holds under its belt. Apparently, it is politics that is behind these petitions rather than any cogent reason and logic. Just five days have passed since the first phase of the census began on March 15 to culminate on April 15. The second phase will be started on April 25 to end after one month.

 

 

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